A matter of degrees
And she's not the only student stepping into newly added academic programs. Kinesiology students have a new athletic training program, and the College of Business Administration has added an innovative accelerated M.B.A. program at the UTA/Fort Worth Riverbend Campus. Like many returning students, Dennard's initial step back into school came after years of waiting, in her case longing, for completion of a much-delayed degree.
"My goal just out of high school was to become a choir director," she said. "But I married an Aggie, ended up at a school with no music department, and graduated with a degree in anthropology. Still, I always thought I would go back to music." Instead, Dennard taught children's classes at the Fort Worth Zoo and published eight nonfiction children's books.
Then one morning, "I woke up, punched my husband in the arm and said, 'If I don't go back and finish that music degree I gave up when I married you, I'll always resent you for it.' " So, back she went, first for the bachelor's degree and now for the master's program.
Graduate adviser Elizabeth Morrow sees the master's in music education as the most logical choice for the department's first graduate-level program. "We're located in the heart of an area with many strong public school music programs," she explained. "This naturally creates a strong demand for upper-level career development."
To accommodate Metroplex music educators, most of the master's courses are offered in the evenings. A full schedule of classes will also be offered during summer sessions, and the entire program can be completed in three summers. It may also add Saturday classes, if needed.
"We've designed our program for the benefit of music teachers who desire to continue teaching full time and simultaneously complete a master's degree," music Chairman Larry Wiley said. "The courses are intended to address the varying needs of music educators and offer curricula that are immediately applicable in the classroom."
The master's in music education is a 30- or 36-hour program, depending on whether the student chooses to complete a thesis. "This is a great new challenge for our faculty as well as our students," Dr. Morrow said. "It's energizing and invigorating as a teacher to work on this level. And it's an opportunity to draw in students who may not have been aware of what the faculty here could offer. "This program will elevate the level of scholarship within the entire department."
Training the trainers
Changes in national accreditation requirements prompted increased emphasis on scholarship in the new athletic training education program. Traditionally, athletic trainers either completed a curriculum-based, classwork-intensive program, or they participated in an internship that emphasized hands-on experience over class time.
"Athletic training is an allied health profession, much like nursing and physical therapy," athletic training education program Director Louise Fincher said. Because of that high degree of professionalism and the need for rigorous classroom knowledge in addition to clinical field experience, the National Athletic Trainers Association Board has decided to eliminate the internship route to certification as of Jan. 1, 2004.
"UTA has had a successful student athletic training program for years; however, it has followed the internship model," Dr. Fincher said. "Beginning with last spring's approval of the new major in athletic training, we are now making the transition to the curriculum model. Gaining accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is a demanding three-year process, but we are committed to reaching that goal."
Currently, only three Texas universities offer a CAAHEP accredited program; upon completion of the accreditation process, UTA will be the fourth. Freshmen who entered in fall 2000 will be the first to complete the entire new program, but administrators have assured students graduating under the previous program that they will receive their national certification before the 2004 deadline.
"We think we can become one of the best programs in the state," Dr. Fincher said. "We've already started receiving letters and phone calls from prospective students who have heard about the changes we're making." Head athletic trainer Brian Conway said the support of President Robert E. Witt, Provost George Wright, School of Education Dean Jeanne Gerlach, Kinesiology Department Chairman Barry McKeown and Vice President Dana Dunn was crucial in implementing a program that should attract excellent students.
"Our students will be taking a course load very similar to students in nursing and other allied health fields," Dr. Fincher added. "They will also complete clinical education rotations, both on campus working with our student athletes as well as off campus working in sports medicine clinics and area high schools. The high quality of students in our program will filter down to better quality clinical care for our university athletes." Athletic Director Pete Carlon agrees. "You give better care to your student-athletes when your student athletic trainers are well-educated."
A superior education also motivates students in UTA's newest M.B.A. program. The 28-month accelerated program, offered at the UTA/Fort Worth Riverbend Campus, provides working professionals a quality education at a reasonable cost. Organized similarly to M.B.A. programs at the nation's top-ranked business schools, the UTA program is cohort based, meaning that students enter as a group and stay together throughout all of their courses.
"That's a common feature of the leading full-time M.B.A. programs in the country," program Director Greg Frazier said. Additionally, for a large part of the program, students are organized into small groups to work collectively on projects.
"One skill to be developed in these programs is team building and team presentation," economics Professor Roger Meiners said. "Networking is a very valuable part of the program. It's harder to build those networks when you only have two or three classes here and there with someone. This way, the students are taking a whole set of course work together."
Traditional M.B.A. programs require full-time residence and generally take two years to complete. Because it is designed for working professionals, the UTA program features courses taught in five- to seven-week sessions, from six to eight hours of lecture per week, with classes held at night or on weekends. Students complete two or three classes every semester.
"These are local folks working and getting an M.B.A. on the side," Dr. Meiners said. "And this is an effort to do something a bit different here at UTA. To reach out and offer the cohort program makes this a little more like the nation's top programs. We've made a real effort to create a very high-quality program here, and from that we've been able to attract high-quality students. All 44 students in the first cohort have significant work experience in major companies."
In addition to new academic offerings on the Arlington and Fort Worth campuses, UTA is also reaching out to students across the globe through the World Wide Web and the University's Distance Education Center.Programs currently available online include master's degrees in both electrical engineering and computer science and engineering; a master's degree in reading with an English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement; and a bachelor's degree in criminology and criminal justice.
Plus, the entire University of Texas System, through the UT TeleCampus, is working to make the complete core curriculum for students' first two years available online. For more information regarding UTA distance and continuing education, visit www.uta.edu/distance.html